World TB Day 2023: Top 10 facts on tuberculosis

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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When is World Tuberculosis Day celebrated?

World Tuberculosis Day, observed on 24 March each year, is designed to create public awareness of the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease. In 2018, 10 million people became ill with TB, and 1.5 million died of the disease, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

Why is World TB Day celebrated?

This annual event World TB Day commemorates the date back to 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes tuberculosis (TB). On March 24, 1882, Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). During this time, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe.

This year’s World TB Day theme is #WeCanEndTB.

What is in a name of TB?

Johann Schonlein coined the term “tuberculosis” in 1834, though it is estimated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis may have been around as long as 3 million years!

Tuberculosis (TB) was called “phthisis” in ancient Greece, “tabes” in ancient Rome, and “schachepheth” in ancient Hebrew. In the 1700s, TB was called “the white plague” due to the paleness of the patients. TB was commonly called “consumption” in the 1800s even after Schonlein named it tuberculosis. During this time, TB was also called the “Captain of all these men of death.”

About one-quarter of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria. Only a small proportion of those infected will become sick with TB.

People with weakened immune systems have a much greater risk of falling ill from TB. A person living with HIV is about 20 times more likely to develop active TB.

When was the WHO End TB Strategy adopted?

The WHO End TB Strategy, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2014, is a blueprint for countries to end the TB epidemic by driving down TB deaths, and incidence and eliminating catastrophic costs. It outlines global impact targets to reduce TB deaths by 90% and cut new cases by 80% between 2015 and 2030, and ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses due to TB.

According to a WHO document on World Tuberculosis Day, let’s understand the 10 top facts on TB.


In 2021, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) worldwide. Six million men, 3.4 million women and 1.2 million children. TB is present in all countries and age groups. But TB is curable and preventable.


A total of 1.6 million people died from TB in 2021 (including 187 000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV/AIDS).


In 2021, the 30 high TB-burden countries accounted for 87% of new TB cases. Eight countries account for two-thirds of the total, with India leading the count, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


In 2021, 1.2 million children fell ill with TB globally. Child and adolescent TB is often overlooked by health providers and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.


TB is the leading killer of people with HIV. In 2021, there were 368 641 people who had TB and HIV were notified, of whom only 46% were on antiretroviral therapy.  Most of the gaps in detection and treatment were in the WHO African Region, where the burden of HIV-associated TB is highest.


Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. Only about 36% of people with drug-resistant TB accessed treatment in 2020. In some cases, an even more severe form of multi-drug resistant TB may develop with bad treatment. Pre-extensively drug-resistant TB (pre-XDR-TB) and (XDR-TB) are forms of TB that respond to even fewer available medicines.


TB treatment saved about 74 million lives globally between 2000 and 2021, but important diagnostic and treatment gaps persist. The treatment success rate for people with TB was 86% in 2020.


Globally, TB incidence rose by 3.6% between 2020 and 2021, reversing declines of about 2% per year for most of the past 2 decades. This is still slower than the 4–5% annual decline that was required to achieve the 2020 milestones of the WHO End TB Strategy.


Of the estimated 10.6 million people who fell ill with TB in 2021, only 6.4 million were detected and notified, leading to a gap of 4.2 million cases. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Funding for the provision of TB prevention, diagnostic and treatment services increased from 2010 to 2019, and spending in low and middle-income countries increased from US$ 5.3 billion in 2020 to US$5.4 billion in 2020. This falls far short of the target of US$13 billion per year by 2022 that was set at the first UN high-level meeting on TB.  For research and development, at least an extra US$ 1.1 billion per year is needed to accelerate the development of new tools.

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